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Funeral traditions altered by coronavirus pandemic

Although for some the COVID-19 situation may make it feel like time is standing still, life goes on, and so does death. Amid the strict rules and precautions in place aimed at combating the spread of the coronavirus, funeral homes across the nation are having to find alternatives to traditional services for those in mourning.

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advice to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer and observe social distancing, Statesboro funeral homes are not only disinfecting their facilities constantly but have also made changes to funeral and memorial services.

One major change is the elimination of traditional visitations, where large groups of friends, family and acquaintances gather to say their last goodbyes. The new trend includes personal, brief viewings instead of group visitations, livestreamed services and outdoor graveside services.

“We even had two visitations outside,” said Tracy Joiner, co-owner of Joiner Anderson Funeral Home.

Services held inside are private and limited to small groups, and people are asked to remain at least 6 feet apart.

Before the funerals, information from family members traditionally obtained during a personal meeting is now received by email or phone, said Jake Futch, Bulloch County coroner who is affiliated with Deal Funeral Home.

“We have no visitation and no services in a chapel or church, but people can choose to have a memorial or celebration of life service at a later date, at no cost.”

Briana Ward, secretary at Craig Tremble Funeral Home, said they aren’t postponing any funerals, unless a family particularly specifies to do so, but she recommends graveside services or having the ceremony livestreamed for people to “attend” remotely.

Like all businesses, the coronavirus pandemic has “affected us as well,” said Maurice Hill, who owns Hill’s Mortuary. Like the others, he offers graveside services but has gone a step further to compensate for the loss of traditional funerals by offering a dove release or customized hand fans.

When personal interaction is unavoidable, all precautions are observed, Joiner said.

“We follow federal guidelines when collecting (bodies of the deceased) and follow the particular facility’s protocol,” he said. “The same practices are used in transporting.”

Inside the funeral home, signs reminding people of social distancing and regular handwashing are posted, and hand sanitizer is provided, he said.

People are understanding of the changes, said Shirley Barnes, owner of Barnes Mortuary.

“Most have been receptive of just having a graveside service,” she said. “People spread out, and it is mostly family. For visitation, we use a lot of Lysol, ask people not to congregate,” and observe social distancing.

All four Statesboro-area funeral home representatives stressed that every effort is taken to support the grieving process with as little impact as possible in spite of the COVID-19 restrictions.


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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